MCDOUGALL: “A Few Towns More” – Fierce folk rock, vibrant lyrics

Portland Americana/folk rocker McDougall is making a visit to L.A. this week as part of his 18-city tour, promoting his new album A Few Towns More.

[By Monica Harris, Photo by Mark Coffin]

A Few Towns More gets its title from one of the songs on the  album. McDougall explains: “It’s a song that portrays how lonely and yet totally amazing it can be touring alone.  The loneliness you face sometimes is all worth it as you spend each night sharing songs with people and making friends out of strangers.”

It’s difficult not to stomp your feet and clap along while listening to the first track, “Coleraine.” Infused with banjo and tambourine, the song reminded me of an old Irish celebration. (Incidentally, I was curious and googled the word “Coleraine,” and learned that it’s a town in Northern Ireland.) This lively instrumental is a good way to start things off, as it sets the tone for the entire album, of which most of the songs have a traditional Irish-music sound.

The second track “Ready, Begin” is fierce rock, in which McDougall uses vibrant lyrics to tell the story of saying goodbye to summertime.

In fact, McDougall’s storytelling is something to be reckoned with. The lyrics of each song are lively, imaginative, and each tells a story that’s easy to get wrapped up in. McDougall’s voice is strong yet sensitive, passionate, and determined.  His guitar playing commands your attention and the instruments in each song (each played by McDougall alone) blend together well.

“The Travels of Frederick Tolls” (part 1 and 2, two separate tracks on the album) display McDougall’s guitar skills at their finest.

“Evening Tide” is the most mellow of the tracks and includes a moving harmonica solo. McDougall sings to his girl and promises they’ll make it together despite the bad days.

“Gates of Victory” – McDougall sings in honor of those who walked before us. “They taught us how to live and they taught us how to die.” Take note of the background vocals – they are those of various Portland area musician friends.

“Ask that Pretty Girl to Be my Wife” – a banjo instrumental containing no lyrics, yet you can “feel” the story, as McDougall plays to impress a pretty “lass.”

My personal favorites: “Ready, Begin” and “A Few Towns More.” McDougall sings: “That road you chose might take you back to your front door, but it looks like mine is gonna take me on a few towns more.”

I haven’t seen McDougall perform live, but I can imagine the vibe at his show is the same as on this album: the songs are lively and thoughtful, making you stop and reminisce, as you personally identify with the words. I’d love to hear some of these songs with a full backing band. The single “A Few Towns More” would be especially powerful with live violins and possibly bass guitar and drums.

McDougall recorded each track live in a barn in Washington, alternating between guitar and banjo, while also playing percussion with his feet. You can’t get much more authentic than that.  A Few Towns More is set for release April 10, 2012.


03/29/12 – Al’s Den at the Crystal Hotel – Portland, OR

03/31/12 – Sophia’s Thai Kitchen & Bar – Davis, CA

04/01/12 – Luigi’s Fun Garden – Sacramento, CA

04/02/12 – The Jury Room – Santa Cruz, CA

04/03/12 – Mutiny – Antioch – CA

04/04/12 – Bru – Atascadero, CA

04/06/12 – Echo Country Outpost – Los Angeles, CA

04/13/12 – Eastside Tap & Grill – Phoenix, AZ

04/14/12 – Sculpture Resource Center – Tucson, AZ

04/16/12 – House Party (email for details) – Albuquerque, NM

04/17/12 – The Historic Taos Inn – Taos, NM

04/18/12 – Front Range Barbeque – Colorado Springs, CO

04/19/12 – The Helm – Colorado Springs, CO

05/10/12 – The Filling Station – Bozeman, MT

05/11/12 – Missoula VFW – Missoula, MT

05/12/12 – Mootsy’s – Spokane, WA

05/18/12 – Everybody’s Brewing – White Salmon, WA

05/19/12 – Trout Lake Country Inn – Trout Lake, WA

Check out McDougall on Reverbnation.